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Metaphor production in preschool bilingualism: a usage-based study

Bilingualism is frequently associated with language deficiency and semi-literacy, in the UK and globally. Linguistic abilities are fundamental to human development; to make sense of new experiences, share new concepts and engage socially and educationally, children need to use metaphors. However, currently, bilingual metaphor studies are noticeably scarce. Similarly, investigations have predominantly been restricted to metaphor processing and comprehension, leaving metaphor production studies practically absent.

This longitudinal corpus-based investigation uses a recently proposed usage-based framework for metaphor identification in child speech (Gaskins, Falcone & Rundblad, 2023) to examine how three bilingual toddlers aged 2-3 use metaphors in their two languages, English and German. As bilingual children tend to have imbalanced input and output opportunities in their two languages, their metaphor production abilities are examined in light of caregivers’ quantitative use of metaphoric expressions, and children’s linguistic abilities, as measured by their mean utterance length.

Findings from this project will thus help us to understand how bilingual children can be supported in conceptualising and verbalising their early experiences.

External Investigator: Antje Endesfelder Quick

Our Partners

Leipzig University

Leipzig University

Project status: Completed

Principal Investigator


Funding Body: School of Education, Communication & Society

Amount: £2,995.20

Period: March 2022 - March 2024